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King County Court commissioner denies Bellevue district's temporary injunction request

courtesy of Bellevue School District
The Bellevue School District welcomed back second graders to classrooms, even as many teachers stayed home in protest.

Amid a dispute over the Bellevue School District’s expansion of in-person learning to young students, the district asked a King County Superior Court commissioner to issue a temporary injunction against its educators union to force them to resume both in-person and live online instruction.

Commissioner Bradford Moore denied that request for an immediate restraining order, saying the educators’ move to provide only “asynchronous,” independent assignments to students did not constitute a work stoppage that violated the collective bargaining agreement. He set Jan. 28 as the date for a full court hearing on the injunction request.

“The teachers are available to provide labor, to continue to provide education remotely. In my view, that’s not a work stoppage,” Moore said.

Second-graders in Bellevue headed back to classrooms for in-person learning on Thursday, but many of their teachers did not show up. The superintendent, substitutes and other school staff led class for the students instead.

The Bellevue Education Association switched to providing independent assignments to students for two days instead of teaching live online or in-person lessons as a way to protest the district’s decision to proceed with more in-person learning instead of pausing until educators have full access to coronavirus vaccines. The district argued that was akin to a work stoppage or slowdown in violation of their labor agreement.

Frustration with remote learning has led some parents to push for schools to resume more in-person learning, which districts have offered in varying degrees. The Bellevue district said it’s been educating about 800 students in person since September and, because of safety measures taken, there have been no cases of coronavirus transmission in school buildings.

But many educators remain deeply concerned, especially as coronavirus cases remain high and health officials warn of a new, more transmissible variant of the virus.

“Why is the district wasting money and energy in court instead of just pausing and working on a resolution that would support students and keep everyone safe?” Allison Snow, president of Bellevue Education Association, said in a statement. “We are disappointed that district leaders have chosen this path.”

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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